Movie Review : Hellbound - Hellraiser II (1988)
Being a boogeyman in the internet age is a tough gig. I mean, how the fuck are you supposed to terrify people when freaks are dismembering live people on the internet, right? It's not easy. Writing convincing horror requires a level of reckless abandon most creative people simple can't summon anymore. The Hellraiser movie franchise is a throwback to simpler times in Hollywood where nobody policed your inherent fuckedness. The first movie was a pleasant surprise. It both terrified and entertained the crap out of me. Enough for me to go down further into the rabbit hole of BDSM cosmic horror created by none other than Clive Barker himself. Turned out I was wholly unprepared for what lied ahead. Hellbound: Hellraiser II drops any pretense of sophistication and rains down blood and guts like it's forever 1988. This movie is adorably fucked.
So, Hellbound: Hellraiser II picks up moments after Hellraiser, really. Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) has been admitted to a psychiatric facility after seeing the zombie of her uncle Frank (Sean Champan) wearing the skin of her father being dismembered by supernatural creatures *. Her story catches the attention of the hospital's founder and head practician Philip Channard (Kenneth Cranham) who turns out to be an occult freak. He owns several lament configurations and heard many stories of their mythical powers. Encouraged by Kirsty's testimony, Channard requisitions the mattress where Julia (Clare Higgins) has been left for the Cenobites to feed on in the first movie and brings her back to life using a poor self-mutilating patient's blood for her to feed on. This movie's just getting started, really. It all goes downhill from here and there's no way I can do justice to how bad it get using only words. It gets INSANE.
Hellbound: Hellraiser II is wild as shit. It's THE horror movie your parents didn't want you to watch when you were a kid. To be fair, if I had watched this film before turning thirteen I would probably be institutionalized by now. This sequel wasn't directed or written by franchise creator and iconic horror author Clive Barker, so it doesn't even try to be nuanced and sophisticated like the original. It borrows many themes from Lovecraft in fact: the psychiatric hospital with the creepy boiler room, the experimentation on extreme cases, the occult-obsessed health professional, it was reminiscent of Beyond the Wall of Sleep among others. The ridiculous relationship between Dr. Channard and Julia also reminded me of Roger Corman movies, who never let narrative hurdles such as realism and common sense get in the way of freaking you out. Hellbound: Hellraiser II borrows a lot of material but does it so bluntly that it comes off as endearing.
Screenwriter Peter Atkins and director Tony Randel take liberties with Clive Barker's mythos in Hellbound: Hellraiser II and explore new and sometimes conflicting ideas. There are many direct references to hell in this movie. It relies a lot more on embedded Judeo-Christian fears to terrify the audience. It's still unclear if the Cenobites are actually FROM hell. When taking Dr. Channard through a recruitment tour of the infernal realm, she refers to the bossman as Leviathan, an avatar of Satan from the Old Testament which has been denatured many times in contemporary fiction, so it's hard to say. The Cenobites also strangely develop a code of ethics when quasi-catatonic puzzle solver Tiffany (Imogen Boorman) summons them by being the hundredth person to solve the freakin' lament configuration **. Ethics aren't very demonic and where were they when Kirsty solved the puzzle while having no idea what the hell she was doing in the first movie? I mean c'mon.
Hellbound: Hellraiser II is such a blood-soaked spectacle that I didn't really mind narrative direction. That movie doesn't give a fuck about its heritage. All it wants to do is freak you out. Peter Atkins is a sick, sick person and you won't be surprised to learn he wrote pretty much the rest of the Hellraiser movies. Hellbound: Hellraiser II is that best/worst case scenario eightiest gorefest I wasn't sure existed. It's like watching The Goonies if the special effect dude got high on angel dust and decided to brutally murder every character on set. Lots of fans warned me about the series gradually losing its appeal over its iterations and I can see why. I don't know where you can possibly go from Hellbound: Hellraiser II. It played every card the mythos had up its sleeve in one movie and revealed this it probably should've kept hidden. This one gets a pass, though. Perhaps Hellbound: Hellraiser II isn't as sneaky-smart and sophisticated as the original, but get your raincoats and your gore-goggles, beautiful people. This is a beautiful and spectacular mess.
* I'm not even kidding. It's only the beginning.
** The implications of solving the lament configuration are so crucial in a cosmic sense of the term, one would believe it's harder to do.